Training incident

by sally

HI my baby and I recently went to a training session which ended badly. It was held in her vet surgery – I sorta thought this was a bad idea… but you know you go with the flow.

Polly is two years old, has not been desexed and she likes to run up to other dogs on the beach and say hi. She recalls extremely well and has never been snippy, snappy or rude unless provoked by other unruly behaviour. Why training – i wanted her more relaxed with other dogs.

So we go to this ‘Training’ in a small vet surgery- she gets isolated as too big to mix with the two other dogs there (two staffies with no control). She spends the next hour and a half in total hyper vigilant mode and then at the end of the ‘training’ the ‘trainer’ leans over her in a small room (her vet consult room) where she is restricted and has no escape.

My Poll took a nip – let go – but broke skin. The trainer has now reported her to the vet (probably the local council) and suggested she is unbreedable, out of control and must be muzzled at all times.

Can I report this trainer, is my beautiful dog a problem or is this the trainer at fault?

Hi Sally,
This sounds as though the situation arose due to a combination of issues/problems, and from what you say I don’t think the ‘blame’ can be laid in any one place.

Although Polly is generally well-behaved and recalls well (which is a huge deal), you do mention that she can react if ‘provoked by unruly play’, which might indicate that she has a low tolerance for stimulation. You also say that you went to the training so that she could learn to be more relaxed around other dogs, so I’m guessing there was already a degree of tension in her in that situation.

Getting her some formal training and socialization in a controlled environment is exactly what you should be doing, so your motivation and actions were the right ones.

The main problem seems to be that the class you went to wasn’t a good fit for your Rottie’s needs. It also may be that the trainer wasn’t experienced or knowledgeable enough. I can’t say any more than that because I don’t know what qualifications or experience she had.

Putting a dog in a small room with two other (and we have owned Staffy’s before and my son has a beautiful girl right now) energetic, active dogs and then expecting her to be calm and uninvolved is silly. It’s simply not going to happen, at least with a dog who hasn’t had extensive and thorough obedience training.

Leaning over a dog is a dominant move, and a dog who is anxious/fearful or (as seems to be the case here) totally wound up may well over-react.

A ‘nip’ should not break the skin though, so it would seem that Polly actually bit this trainer. She most definitely should not have done that, regardless of the situation, a warning growl should have been the first step. But it may be that she was simply too wound up at that point. Both the trainer (who should have had the experience to evaluate the situation and the emotional state of your dog) and Polly herself are at fault here in my opinion. But in Polly’s case she needs help to deal with her tendency to react aggressively (and that’s what happened here) or there could be serious issues down the road.

Obviously I wasn’t there, I don’t know your dog,or the trainer, and so I can only make comments/observations based on what you have told me. From that standpoint I’d have to say that I don’t necessarily agree that Polly is ‘unbreedable’ or ‘out of control’, but there is most definitely a problem with her temperament in certain situations. It may be wise to muzzle her if this sort of thing has happened before, or the potential is there for it to happen again, but if you are certain it was a one-off situation and take care to make sure the circumstances don’t present themselves again, I tend to think that muzzling her isn’t necessary – at this point.

My suggestion would be that you find a trainer who is experienced with large, guardian breeds and who uses only positive, rewards-based training methods. Tell him/her everything about Polly…. how she reacts in different situations and around different people and dogs, what her personality is like and so on. Get recommendations for the path you need to follow here. You may want to have a trainer come to your home to evaluate Polly, or take her to an obedience school for a personal one-on-one evaluation, and then move on from there.

As it seems that overall her temperament is good and it’s only in what she perceives to be high-stress situations that she acts out, chances are good that with the right training, socialization and practice she will learn how to behave appropriately with self control.

The breeding aspect of this is not so clear cut though. Unless your Rottie has a stellar pedigree, is show-worthy and totally sound in every way (including temperament) she should not be bred. It’s simply not necessary. Purebred dogs should only be in breeding programs that are bettering the breed as a whole and it’s a big responsibility.

A fearful or anxious temperament CAN be an inherited trait, and as it’s definitely not desirable in a Rottweiler (or any other breed for that matter), dogs who are this way do not make good mothers. Even if the behavior is a ‘nurture’ rather than a ‘nature’ based trait, jumpy or mistrustful mothers tend to raise puppies with the same attitude, which compounds the problem and foists in onto another generation.

If I were in your shoes I’d concentrate on finding Polly the very best trainer that you can and help her to become more self-confident and controlled. She will be happier and so will you.

I wish you tons of luck and hope that this incident is just a one-off that leads to positive changes ~ Sue

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Feb 18, 2014

Thanks NEW
by: Anonymous

thanks Sue – taken on board and will go looking for a good, experienced trainer and training situation for my girl – will let you know how we go!

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About The Rotty lover 2159 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone